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Cheap vacuum cleaners put to the test

We reveal the best vacuum cleaners you can buy for under £100, and the cheap duds to avoid

Cheap vacuum cleaners put to the test

Can you get a good vacuum cleaner for less than £100? That’s the question we’ve answered with our latest round of vacuum cleaner tests.

We tested 19 new vacuum cleaners that range in price from £45 all the way up to £349, including vacuums from big names such as Dyson, Hoover, Miele and Shark – and cheaper models from Argos, Bush and Russell Hobbs.

As we’ve found in the past, it’s not easy to get a decent vacuum on the cheap. Two of the cheaper vacuums we tested proved so abysmal at cleaning we’ve made them Don’t Buys.

However, one great-value vacuum scored a respectable 69%, meaning it’s just a couple of points away from being a Best Buy.

Looking for the best cheap vacuum cleaner? Use our independent vacuum cleaner reviews to ensure you pick a model that punches above its weight when it comes to performance.

Budget vacuum flops in Which? tests

One cheap vacuum we tested got an overall score of just 16%, the worst recorded under our current test programme. It’s a true shocker, picking up a paltry 17% of dust from carpets.

If you’ve got floorboards, you may as well not bother, as it managed to gather up just 13% of dust from crevices.

It failed our pet hair pick-up test too, and it has poor allergy filters that let dust and allergens escape back into your home. To top it off, it’s horribly noisy, coming in at 88 decibels – as loud as a chainsaw.

Find out which vacuum failed to impress, plus all the vacuums to avoid, by checking our list of Don’t Buy vacuum cleaners for 2018.

Cheap vs expensive vacuum cleaners

When you’re shopping for a new vacuum cleaner, other than a brand name it might not be immediately clear what extra features you are getting on a pricey model.

Here we take a closer look at the features you get on some recently tested budget and premium upright vacuum cleaners:

Dyson Light Ball Animal, £370

The Dyson Light Ball comes with an array of extras intended to make it easier to use and better at cleaning.

As well as the standard crevice tool, upholstery tool and dusting brush, it comes with Dyson’s unique ‘tangle-free turbine tool’, designed to whisk away pet hair, and a dedicated stair tool. It also includes a five-year guarantee as standard.

You get three suction modes for different tasks: deep pile rugs, large debris and a maximum power mode for deeply ingrained dust. This vacuum also claims to be quieter than previous models.

To find out if these features, and more, help to make this vacuum cleaner a winner, read the full Dyson Light Ball Animal review.

Shark DuoClean Lift-Away True Pet NV800UKT, £200

This Shark vacuum comes packed full of features that Shark claims will make it simple to use and brilliant at cleaning.

The Duoclean floorhead has two spinning brushes: one is a soft roller, designed to suck up larger debris, the other a bristled brush, designed to agitate fine dust and pick up stray strands of fluff and hair.

This vac also has a lift-away dust canister that can be removed from the main body of the vacuum and used in harder-to-clean places such as the stairs or on high surfaces, and there’s an additional mini turbo accessory for tackling fur and fluff on sofas and upholstery.

The on/off switch is on the handle, so you don’t need to bend down to switch it on or off.

To find out if these features are worth paying for, read the full Shark DuoClean Lift-Away True Pet NV800UKT review.

Argos Simple Value Bagless Upright, £50

On. Push. Empty. Easy. The Argos Simple Value Upright doesn’t promise to be anything other than a basic bagless upright machine.

It comes with a 3-in-1 crevice tool, upholstery cleaner and dusting brush and a floorhead attachment for use on hard floors. It also has a relatively short extendable hose.

Unlike the Dyson and Shark vacuums it has a relatively short overall reach (how far you can stretch from plug socket to floorhead) of only 6.6 metres. The Shark stretches to 8.5 metres and the Dyson 10.2 metres.

Do extras matter if it delivers on the basics, though? Read our Argos Simple Value Bagless Upright review to see if it out-cleans pricier competitors.

Vacuum features to look out for

Here are some features worth looking for if you are spending a lot of money on a new model. You can find some of them on cheaper machines, but you’re more likely to find some or all of them on a higher-priced model.

  • Adjustable suction power Top-end vacuums tend to let you to adjust the power level depending on the cleaning task. Cheaper cleaners might not have this capability or might have a more rudimentary version of it.
  • Self-cleaning filters Some premium machines have filters that will clean themselves at the touch of a button or, in the case of Dyson’s Cinetic vacuum cleaners, do away entirely with the need to clean or replace filters.
  • Better ergonomics On premium vacs you’re more likely to see on/off switches on the handle, along with power adjustment settings. Having these switches on the handle rather than the body of the vacuum means less bending down to make fiddly adjustments.
  • Turbo brushes A more expensive machine is more likely to come with a floorhead that has a spinning brush bar. While these are standard on upright machines, they’re not standard on cylinder vacuums. A spinning brush bar usually helps when cleaning up pet hair and also tends to mean that the vacuum is easier to push on thick carpet.

These features can reduce the effort needed to use and maintain your vacuum cleaner, but more features don’t necessarily always make for a better user experience. We’ve found that expensive vacuums aren’t always easier to use than cheaper machines for everyday vacuuming jobs.

Check our list of Best Buy vacuum cleaners for the best options for your budget.

Latest vacuum cleaner reviews for 2018:

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